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July 23, 2008

Shopping Cart Wash: Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Currently up and running at the Chevy Chase Supermarket "... is the Washington [D.C.] area's first full-scale shopping cart wash (above), a push-through device that sprays a misty peroxide solution over each cart between every use. It dries in a few seconds, leaving behind a faint whiff of beauty parlor and a cart promised to be 99.9 percent germ free for the next customer," wrote Steve Hendrix in today's Washington Post Style section front page story, which follows.

    Shopping Cart Wash Lets Customers Get Groceries, Not Germs

    The Kirsch brothers want you to know: At Chevy Chase Supermarket, it is now safe to lick the shopping carts.

    Not that they recommend it, mind you, but as co-owners, along with their dad, of the venerable independent grocery store on Connecticut Avenue, Jason and Kevin Kirsch know how common it is for their youngest customers to treat cart handles like lollipops. Worse, they know how unnerved folks have become in recent years over alarmist reports that rank shopping carts right up there with public restroom toilet seats in terms of germs.

    And so the brothers yesterday installed what they say is the Washington area's first full-scale shopping cart wash, a push-through device that sprays a misty peroxide solution over each cart between every use. It dries in a few seconds, leaving behind a faint whiff of beauty parlor and a cart promised to be 99.9 percent germ free for the next customer.

    "It kills all the nasty stuff, salmonella, staph, E. coli," said Bob Schwei, a technician with PureCart Systems, the Wisconsin-based manufacturer of the glossy white machine, which looks like an airport X-ray machine. "They're very popular in Korea — bird flu."

    As Schwei finished installing the unit next to the row of checkout aisles, customers stopped to see the first sanitized carts roll through. Suzi Walsh, a self-described germ-phobe and a regular shopper from Kensington, said she had been waiting for the new system since the store announced it was coming several weeks ago.

    "I'm the kind of person who uses a bit of paper towel to open the bathroom door," said Walsh, who said she prefers shopping in the winter when she can leave her gloves on. "This is great. I see the kids scratch their diapers, then grab the cart. No, no, no. I'm way beyond that."

    But Jason Kirsch said parents with young children are likely to be the most excited by the prospect of a clean cart. He made sure that his collection of kiddy carts, the ones with big plastic police cars and firetrucks bolted to the front [below],


    would fit through the machine. "Hey, I'm the father of three," he said. "I know the first thing they want to do is chew, touch, feel."

    A few aisles over in the pasta section, Marti Robey of Kensington, a mother of five, said she knows all about the powerful magnetic draw that shopping cart handles can have on toddler tongues.

    "You turn back with something from the shelf, and they've got their mouth wrapped around it," Robey said.

    Still, she said shopping cart bacteria wasn't high on her list of Things to Worry About. The two she had riding in the red pickup truck kiddy cart yesterday, Betsy, 6, and Jake, 3, would have no trouble finding other ways to get germy in the normal course of a kid's day.

    "After rolling in dirt and mud and stuff, I don't worry about the shopping cart so much," she said.

    Like all grocers, the Kirsches have seen concerns over cart cleanliness grow over the years. They used to pressure wash the carts on a monthly basis and more recently added sanitary wipe dispensers near them so customers could scrub their own handles, and more.

    "We'd see people out in the parking lot trying to wipe down the whole cart," said Walter Kirsch, who has worked at the store since 1963 and owned it, with his sons, since 1985. "We're a small family business. This is just another way that we're taking care of the neighborhood."


Look for Whole Foods to be all over this in a granola minute.

July 23, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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#1 most every cart I have ever seen, the child seat folds in so you don't have to use it. #2, if parents are so concerned about the carts for their kids, then why don't they buy one of those cloth seats that go over the entire seat that the kid sits in, including the handle. #3, a person can just use their own bags for their produce, wrap it in two plastic bags (discard the outer one when you get home) or just one bag, and/or spray everything liberally with some antiseptic if it makes you feel better. I doubt it would actually do anything, but it might give peace of mind.

Why not just carry around a spray bottle of Lysol?? Why should the world cow down to other peoples' phobias? I mean, in most other parts of the world, these things are soooo far from being a concern whatsoever that the very thought of an antiseptic wash for shopping carts is ludicrous. Most of the world is just trying to get uncontaminated drinking water and not step on landmines, for crying out loud.

And what about people that are allergic to the peroxide solution? It does happen. Liberally spraying yet MORE chemicals on everyday objects is a recipe for disaster! Besides the whole issue of over-sterilizing our environment, leaving people without natural defenses for the germs that do come through. It's just asking for trouble.

Posted by: Lilorfnannie | Feb 11, 2009 7:28:07 PM

how can I get one on those machines? Do yo have a company name or number I can have

Posted by: Eric | Feb 11, 2009 4:47:58 PM

Don't buy them from BookOfJoe, he charges too much.

Posted by: RocketReseller | Nov 13, 2008 6:51:54 AM

I would like to know if you have distributorships for cart wash? please e-mail me or call 479-461-0964 (thank you ) (Jim

Posted by: Jim Haywood | Nov 12, 2008 8:27:29 PM

Just run the kid through the cart wash, too.

Posted by: Flautist | Jul 23, 2008 12:14:43 PM

I'm mother to a toddler and so I know both sides of the coin as to how germ infested supermarket carts are. Love the idea of this cart wash. Wish we had it here. And Clifyt is right, that's the reason I place all my vegetable and fruits INSIDE bags while I have them in the cart.

Posted by: Milena | Jul 23, 2008 12:04:31 PM

Good article. We need to keep Bird Flu at the forefront of every business manager's mind. It won't go away so better start preparing.

Nigel Thomas
For free references and tools go to Bird Flu Manual Online or, if you need more comprehensive tutorials and templates, consider Bird Flu D-I-Y eManual for business preparedness and survival.

Posted by: Nigel Thomas | Jul 23, 2008 12:04:22 PM

I was going to question the need for this until I read clifyt's comment.

I just wonder about keeping kids in a too clean and sterile environment. Hasn't that lead to younger people be susceptible to common bacteria that we would become immune to after a mild encounter. Toxic Shock Syndrome anyone?

But I'm never using that fold out seat in a grocery cart again, damn rug rats.

Posted by: Ray | Jul 23, 2008 10:50:58 AM

Think about it...those carts with the built in child seats (ALL OF THEM)...who gets put there where you place all the unprotected foods like fruit and vegetables?

Thats right...kids p*ssing and sh*tting themselves. Right on the same place you have your food. And then as soon as they are done, the cart is places right back for you to use.

Seriously...for non-parents, we should be given carts with NO child seats on there...why is this health issue even allowed to happen?

Posted by: clifyt | Jul 23, 2008 10:17:34 AM

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